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December 24, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

The Buckingham Outlaws: PART X

Post_10_Black Hand_Philladelphia Paper

The Black Hand Gang

In the September 30th reports concerning the situation in and around Arvonia, the Buckingham outlaws were referred to as “The Black Hand Gang.” An explanation for this new nickname appeared in The Times-Dispatch:

Letter That Caused Alarm

An anonymous letter, received here some days ago, and to which little attention was paid until the shooting of Gregory, is now considered in the light of a “Black Hand” epistle, and has greatly added to the alarm. The letter was addressed to one person, but on the inside were the names of several citizens. The letter was mailed at Penlan, five miles from here. The writer said:

“I am a minister of the gospel, and I thought it my duty to notify and give you a chance to save your life. These men are surely going to lynch you men, I think.

“You people at Arvonia have been meddling so much for the last few years that if you all don’t attend to your own business and use your manners and quit meddling with other people’s business, they are going to lynch you and everything at Arvonia.

“They say they got seventy-five and they don’t want but twenty-five more and they know where they can get them. I heard a man at Buckingham Courthouse say he was at Arvonia and said you Arvonia people didn’t have any more manners than dogs when you all were where ladies were. My advice is, you all better leave at once.”

On the topmost edge of the letter was inserted: “I saw them have six boxes of shells of buckshot, and said they were going to use their guns altogether. Those are reliable parties I heard talking. Look out any night, Arvonia is on fire now, but you can’t see the blaze.”

A. R. W. M.

Typically a Black Hand letter includes extortion, demanding money as well as threatening bodily harm, arson, or murder. Thus far, the Zimmerman-Thomas Gang had made no demands except to be left alone to ply their illegal trade and continue to terrorize the countryside. Later, in October of 1908, one Pennsylvania newspaper printed that the gang “even went to the extent of levying tribute upon the country people.” To date, no other reference to extortion has been found.

This letter, however, proved effective and the citizens of Arvonia believed the men would make good their threats.

Coming Next: Tension Mounts

Need to catch up? Click here: The Buckingham Outlaws: Part I


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